Noise is Buffalo Police Department's newest crowd control tactic

Sep 28, 2017

Watchdog groups in Buffalo are skeptical of a new crowd control device that the Buffalo Police Department has purchased. It will be used to disperse crowds when they become unruly.

It is called the Long Range Acoustical Device. It transmits a sound so loud that it will irritate eardrums. Because of the resulting pain, unruly crowds are expected to quickly disperse.

Use of the device came up this week during a meeting of the Common Council's Police Oversight Committee. Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said he will submit a written policy to lawmakers for when it is needed.

"It will only be used when there's an escalation," Derenda said. "Buffalo has had very peaceful protests. We hope that continues."
 

An example of an LRAD on top of a New York City Police Department vehicle.

However, there have been lawsuits filed by protesters in New York City who were subjected to the device. Benjamin Nelson, an attorney representing the local chapter of National Lawyers Guild, said some of the protesters suffered ill-effects.

"As a result of their exposure to the sound, they experienced physical injury - migraines, sinus pain, dizziness, facial pressure and ringing in the ears," Nelson said.

Nelson said the device sends a continuous sound at just under 150 decibels. As a point of comparison, a jet taking off 200 feet away is 130 decibels. Council President Darius Pridgen said the city should proceed cautiously here.

"In light of the fact we have heard some concerns, it would be important that we address those concerns," Pridgen said

Derenda said he prefers using the new audio device for controlling unruly behavior as opposed to tasers, which he does not believe are right for his department.